Glass Marcano, the conductor who listens to rap
“I remember a concert. We were in the state I’m from, I was maybe 17, 18. We were in the middle of a symphony full of great energy, and a lot of character, it was Shostakovich’s seventh symphony. The director signaled the entrance with the trumpets; his face changed, it was very surprising, very shocking. It was the first time I had seen that expression on his face. I continued to watch. I remember when I got home, I couldn’t help but imagine myself directing. Lead and make that gesture he did. This is how the Venezuelan Glass Marcano remembers her epiphany to leave the violin aside and become a conductor.
Marcano is 25 years old and belongs to the small group of women conductors of the world. She has been living in Paris for a year, where she received the “La Maestra” prize, the first women’s orchestra conducting competition, organized by the Orchester Paris-Mozart and the Orchester Philharmonique de Paris.
The first thing that comes to mind when talking about conducting an orchestra is a mature white man in a tuxedo, throwing his baton in the air as the musicians follow. For centuries it has been an area of exclusion for women, youth and people of color; however, that has changed, and the contest Marcano entered is proof of that. Marcano has competed with 220 other female conductors from all over the world, with a solid background and experience in Europe, the birthplace of classical music; and reached the semi-finals.
“I never thought that because I’m a woman I couldn’t achieve something, maybe because I have a lot of attitude, character and confidence,” she explains. “But I have noticed that I am often excluded not for being a woman, but for the color of my skin. It may be that in the world of classical music, it is not common to find people of color, because our complexion and our roots are associated with other musical genres, something more popular, ”she concludes.
Glass Marcano totally breaks the stereotype of the conductor. Also makes its history. She began her musical education playing the violin at the age of 6, “I think most of the time when a child comes into the system to play an instrument, it’s because they see that ‘there is talent, in my case, I was very restless, and someone told me mom that classical music could help me be calmer. I think it worked because I focused all my energy on how music was produced and how an instrument was played,” she says.
Marcano belongs to the National System of Children’s and Youth Orchestras of Venezuela, a music school created and founded by Maestro José Antonio Abreu in the 70s, and since then it has offered an education to more than a million disadvantaged children and young people.
The famous Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra is a product of this system, which is formed by young people from the small orchestras of the neighborhoods and cities of Venezuela, and has even performed at the Royal Albert Hall in London, under the direction of Gustavo Dudamel . , another child of the System.
Dudamel is perhaps the most outstanding musician of the schools created by Maestro Abreu.
In 2006, this Venezuelan succeeded in breaking all the preconceived ideas of the conductor. A young man of only 25 years old, with his hair in the air, began to work his way to becoming the director of the greatest orchestras in the world. From Milan to Los Angeles, the world fell at his feet. Today, Dudamel is recognized as one of the best conductors in the world, and since September 2021 he is the new director of the Paris Opera.
Marcano was part of the Yaracuy Symphony Orchestra and the Yaracuy Youth Symphony Orchestra, both part of the National Orchestra System. It was there that she found her true calling, at the concert of this Shostakovich. She began studying law, and conducting in the evening until in 2020, in the midst of a pandemic, she found herself in the ‘La Maestra’ competition which took her to Paris.
Obviously, Dudamel is one of the people she admires the most, and life has given her the chance to be in the same city as him. “Later, I met Gustavo Dudamel, the conductor who became famous, and I thought ‘wow’. I started seeing videos, and everything had brought me to that moment, the school curriculum, the System, everything.”
Although they both live in Barcelona, they met in Paris. As a youngster of her age, Marcano is very active on social media, where she commented with great enthusiasm on meeting Dudamel in March. “A great meeting for me. It made me so happy to meet him, maestro @gustavodudamel!! Thank you for so much passion, energy and love for music,” she posted on Instagram.
“I am with him, he opened the doors to me, a person who is starting his career. He welcomed me and I’m super happy. She continues to say that she attended several rehearsals of the Venezuelan maestro with the Paris Opera, an unparalleled opportunity to see him in action.
Break the mussels
“Glass Marcano listens to rap”, replies the young director when asked what her favorite music is. “Before she goes on stage, I always see freestyle cockfighting,” she laughs. Freestyle and cockfighting are very popular styles of improvisation in rap, and they are characterized by not following a specific structure, something totally different from what happens when Glass takes the stage to conduct.
If she wasn’t a conductor, she would be an actress or a rapper. “Before I studied conducting, I wanted to go to the United States to study acting, and as a child I wanted to be a rapper,” she says. In a way, it’s not strange that she decided to conduct, after all, histrionic shows aren’t exactly unusual among conductors; their bodies are ultimately a conducting tool.
On the podium, Marcano brings out the actress who is in her, takes her baton, and with elegance and strength, she leads the musicians note by note along the score. She knows her figure doesn’t fit the conventional, and she sees herself as a conductor far removed from being a “more urban” academic, she says. ¿Influence of rap?, of course.
From the podium, she conducted the Symphony Orchestra of Cartagena in the Concert “The Colors of Colombia”, during the Classical Music Festival of Cartagena, which was celebrated in the Caribbean city from January 4 to 10. Going to Cartagena to conduct the Young Symphony Orchestra has a special value, since it comes from a similar project.
The Orchestra is made up of young people who have taken part in the educational programs of the Fundación Salvi, organizer of the Festival. Since 2016, the Foundation has partnered with other organizations to create a music education space for disadvantaged young people in Cartagena. “I think these guys are very talented. When you have a soul and a technique, you can achieve great things; technique is important, but your mind is crucial and they have it. And for me, that’s the key to success,” and she’s an expert at it.